Posts Tagged: Jessica Kirkland


Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Jessie Kirkland stripeBLOGGER: JESSIE KIRKLAND

A Literary Agent with The Blythe Daniel Agency, Jessie will teach two Afternoon Workshops, review Pre-Conference Manuscript Submissions, and meet with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22.


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Poor timing could sabotage your ability to snag an agent. Some writers can’t get an agent because their craft still needs work. Other writers fail to come up with a unique idea that helps them stand out amongst the competition. However, many writers have put in the time and hard work necessary to get published, and they are still empty-handed when it comes to signing with an agent. For some of those talented writers, it simply comes down to poor timing. So, how does timing affect the “yes” you so badly want and need from an agent?

Although I would say that I’m always open to submissions, the truth is I’m not always in active signing mode. I tend to sign people in rounds throughout the year. And these signing sprees are typically concurrent with writers conferences, not the queries in my inbox. I do review queries, but it’s not the best way to pitch me personally.

Here is a typical rundown of my calendar year. I have a conference a month in August, September, and October, then I take a break until February. Then, I have a February, March, and May conference, and then I break for the summer. In the spaces between these writers conferences and retreats, free time is scarce. Most months, I’m focused on servicing my existing clients: negotiating contracts, talking with editors and publishers, and helping clients with marketing & social media. Many agents have much busier schedules than me as they go to multiple conferences a month—every single month of the year.

It can be very difficult for agents to find time to stop doing the work that is right in front of them, in order to think about acquisitions. The workload from already existing clientele always takes priority over potential clients. I can’t switch my brain into acquisition mode sometimes, until I’m leaving on a plane for my next conference. At almost every writers conference, agents teach, speak on publishing panels, and take pitches via 15-minute appointments. A writers conference is your best chance at getting signed by me personally. And yet timing plays a role at these conferences, too.

Agents typically meet with acquisition editors and publishers in 30-minute appointments in between all the duties we have scheduled for us at conferences. So, what if you come to a conference and don’t get the time you wanted with an agent? Then, what should you do? My advice is that you send an email to the agent with a title like “Mt. Hermon Writers Conference meeting” in the subject line. We don’t normally stop checking email, even if we are at conferences. Tell the agent that you weren’t able to get an appointment with them like you requested, and would it be possible to meet with them at a meal or during some of their free time? You might have a good chance at not only getting this appointment, but also standing out more because you emailed them and now you are on their radar.

NOTE FROM MONA: Mount Hermon doesn’t do pre-conference or arbitrary sign-up sheets for appointments. You and the faculty member schedule your own appointments. You can read more about the connection process here.

A few years ago, I was sprinting through a hotel lobby trying to get to a dinner meeting with a publisher when a conference attendee stopped me as I was hurrying past, and told me that they didn’t get an appointment with me. I replied, “Oh, I’m so sorry. If you’ll send me an email, maybe we can make some time.” The guy was determined to force me to hear him out—right there in the lobby. He started to recite his pitch when I had to interrupt him and say, “No. I’m sorry I can’t listen right now. I have an appointment.” He kept pitching, and moved in front of me to block me from leaving. And so I stood there, feeling odd, and by that point…mad. When he was finished I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested.” and stepped past him. My point? If he would have been wise with the time I offered him, instead of pushy, then it might have turned out differently.

Don’t ruin your chance by forcing a moment with an agent when they don’t have time to listen. Particularly if they’ve already politely said no. There’s so much instruction out there on how to take your moment and deliver your elevator pitch, but if you force your moment into an agent’s already-filled-up schedule, then you’ll probably be staring a quick no in the face. Pick a meal to do an impromptu pitch, not when an agent is running to the restroom or another meeting and doesn’t even have the time to think about what you are saying. I think all of us expect to be stopped, and we don’t mind at all. It’s only when writers get forceful that things can turn south quickly. That type of bad timing pitch will never turn out in your favor.

Agents are busy. Our calendars are full, and although another agent’s calendar may look different than mine in a lot of ways, I assure you there are patterns to the bulk of their signing. They might not have my habits, but they have habits. Their calendars, inboxes, and time available still affect your ability to get their attention. And when you know these patterns, you’ll be able to pinpoint more optimal times to query or pitch them face-to-face, and therefore have a better chance at getting an agent.


Come meet Jessie Kirkland at the 43rd annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register!

5 Questions to Ask Before You Self or Indie-Publish

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.


Agent, The Blythe Daniel Agency

Jessie will teach two Afternoon Workshops, review Pre-Conference Manuscript Submissions, and meet with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016,


To Do Folder pic Jessie KirklandA common debate right now in the publishing world is whether or not authors should traditionally publish or self-publish. Every writer has heard wildly successful tales from both sides of the fence. As an agent, I fully believe that strong publishing partnerships are priceless. When you find the right publishing house to partner with, your career should be better for it. At the same time, I do think there are certain types of projects, circumstances, seasons—and certain types of writers—that lend themselves well to self-publishing. There are many instances where a quality, self-published title has helped an author get a contract from the agents and publishing houses they hoped to secure in the first place. If you are a writer who is considering the self-publishing route, here are a few questions to consider before you go on your way.

Money. Are you ready to be the bank? Many authors fail to consider the cost of self-publishing before they move forward with their book projects. I know many writers who are self-publishing well, but all of them spend anywhere from $1000 to $3,000 just to get the essentials: a good cover, a thorough developmental edit, and a quality copyedit. Can you do it cheaper? I’m sure you can, but my warning to you is that you get what you pay for. That doesn’t include any extra money spent on publicity or marketing. The nice thing about publishing with a traditional house is that they are the bank. They take on the risk and bring to the table all of the necessary personnel to make your story market-ready. As a self-published author, you should absolutely have a team that looks identical to what the publishing house would supply for you—but you have to find them, hire them, and pay them out of your own pocket.

Momentum. Are you ready to build a team to help push your book forward? When you self-publish, you volunteer to be a team of one. And if you want to be successful, you can’t stay a team of one. There are two types of teams that every self-published author needs: a prep team and a launch team. The prep team consists of all the people that help prepare your manuscript for production. These are agents, developmental editors, line editors, graphic artists, formatters, etc. Then, there is the launch team. These are marketers, publicists, social media assistants, readers in your target market, and other focus groups that are willing to tell the world about your book and share it on social media.  It’s rare to find someone who can wear enough hats to do this on their own. Your team might be five people or ten people, but you must have a team in order to launch a book that will help your career.

Marketing. Are you prepared to market your work weekly? There are millions of books on Amazon. And if you want to join the ranks of those millions of books, then you need a marketing strategy to get noticed, because it’s pretty darn noisy out there. I believe that authors, any type in any market, should have a marketing plan for 6 months prior to their publication date, and 6 months after launch. You will not drum up anything but disappointment if you simply upload your book to Amazon and walk away. You have to remind people, in a responsible and non-annoying way, that you are a writer with a book for sale. Many people hate to market. If you are one of those people, then you probably shouldn’t self-publish or you will need to hire someone to do the marketing for you.

Motive. Why are you choosing to self-publish? There are a number of motives that drive a writer’s decision to self-publish their work. These motives can be derived from both positive and negative experiences that writers have faced in their careers.  Maybe you want to self-publish because you are a great writer and marketer, so self-publishing is a natural fit for you. I know a few authors who have had long careers in traditional publishing and left for a bigger paycheck in the self-publishing world. But, again, those are established authors with huge followings, so they can run the risk of not having a publishing partner launch their titles. Sometimes writers who decide to pursue self-publishing do so through a lens of rejection. They have received no’s from traditional publishers, or they get impatient trying to find an agent, and decide to run ahead of the process. Most of the time, this ends badly—with damage done to their career almost before it begins. If you are interested in self-publishing, you need to weigh your motive against possible outcomes. Did a publishing house tell you no because your content wasn’t ready? If so, self-publishing could be a disaster for you in that moment of time. Do you write in a genre that only has a few reasonable opportunities? Then self-publishing might be a good route for you.

Manuscript. Is your manuscript publication ready? Have you given your story enough time to bake? Before I was an agent, I wanted to be a writer. The best advice that anyone ever gave me was to go to a writer’s conference if I was truly interested in pursuing writing as a career. It took me six years of writer’s conferences to fully grasp what good story looked like on the page. I’ve read countless books on how to write as well as studied bestsellers, all to become better. Have you studied your craft? I know a handful of authors who wrote a first draft before they studied the art of writing, but they didn’t stop learning after their first draft. A first draft is a baby step. It’s an amazing accomplishment, and harder for some than others, but you need to know the rules of writing and good story. And then, if you creatively choose to break a few, know the rules you are breaking. Some ways to get your manuscript ready include: get your prep team assembled, join a strong critique group, create a group of Beta Readers to give you general reader feedback.

One piece of advice I give to debut authors is that even if competition is high and opportunity to break in and get a traditional contract feels low, these factors should never change your passion for writing. A changing publishing landscape should never make you quit. If anything, it should make you a stronger, smarter, and more strategic writer. In the event that you have weighed your options and self-publishing is your path of choice, educate yourself and do it well.


Come meet Jessie Kirkland at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.